The Threat of Russian Invasion of Ukraine is Real

Poland is among the NATO members that are most hawkish in confronting what it sees as Russia’s revisionist ambitions in Eastern Europe. Poland could be right when predicting Putin’s intention to re-enact the former Soviet Union.

Addressing envoys from the 57 members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Zbigniew Rau did not name Russia but listed a string of conflicts in which Moscow’s involvement has been alleged.

“It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” Rau said in a speech outlining his country’s priorities as it holds the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship this year.

Russian troops near Ukrainian border. Photo by REUTERS.

“For several weeks, we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe.”

“We should focus on a peaceful resolution of the conflict in and around Ukraine,” Rau added, calling for “full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders”.

Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops near its borders with Ukraine, which is already battling Moscow-backed separatists in its east. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

Although the CSTO, a kind of ‘Warsaw Pact–lite’, was founded in the 1990s, the Kremlin has never used it to justify a foreign intervention—until now, in Kazakhstan. The CSTO didn’t intervene when Kyrgyzstan requested Russia’s help in 2010 or when Armenia did so during its recent conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Roughly 2,300 troops were dispatched to Kazakhstan last week by a Moscow-dominated alliance of former Soviet countries after Kazakhstan’s president appealed for assistance amid the protests that saw his government lose control in the country’s biggest city, Almaty.

By extending a helping hand at the time of crisis, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had achieved a geopolitical triumph, Mr. Alzhanov said. But “such a favor has its own price and will not be forgotten,” the analyst noted. “We will know what that price will be later.”

Thursday’s talks in Vienna will be the first this week in which Ukraine will be represented, and they’re only on a low, ambassadorial level. Ministerial talks between Russia and the U.S. in Geneva on Tuesday and between Russia and NATO in Brussels on Wednesday failed to yield clear progress.

“The threat of military invasion is high,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “There are no dates set for any more talks. We have to consult with allies and partners first.”

Russia said dialogue was continuing but was hitting a dead end as it tried to persuade the West to bar Ukraine from joining NATO and roll back decades of alliance expansion in Europe – demands that the United States has called “non-starters”.

“At this stage, it is really disappointing,” Russian Ambassador Alexander Lukashevich told reporters after a meeting of the OSCE, the third leg in a series of East-West talks this week.

Russia’s military presence in Kazakhstan is an additional source of leverage as Putin pursues his second goal to pressure Ukraine and Georgia not to integrate into NATO or even European Union. The threat to a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is real as Russia boosted 100,000 troops, armored vehicles and artillery near the Ukrainian border.

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